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Have you ever felt like you don’t belong anywhere?
Like you just aren’t a good fit for the people around you?
It’s a common feeling that most everyone experiences at least once in their life.
Sometimes we may just be going through some temporary hard times where we feel we can’t really relate to anyone.
Other times it may be the result of something deeper that needs to be addressed with the help of a mental health professional.
Either way, the need to belong is inherently part of being human. Every person, to some degree, needs to feel like they relate to someone around them.
If, right now, you feel like you don’t fit in with the people and places that surround you, there is likely a reason for it.
8 Reasons Why You Feel Like You Don’t Belong
1. Your world view or personality is different than the norm.
Does the world make sense? Not usually.
It’s hard to figure out one’s place in the world when you are constantly bombarded from all sides from social media, traditional media, your friends and family, or even coworkers who feel you should see the world the same way they do.
Not everyone does, and that’s okay. It takes lots of different perspectives, ideas, and actions to make the world go round.
A differing world view or personality can feel isolating because you may not feel understood. And if you don’t feel understood, you won’t feel like you belong.
A good way to counter this feeling is to find other people who see the world through similar eyes. Look into groups, activities, or locations where you can meet other people with similar perspectives and interests.
2. You’re not expressing yourself well.
The ability to clearly communicate what you think and how you feel goes a long way toward helping you feel accepted and welcome.
You may not be articulating your innermost thoughts, desires, and passions in a clear, concise way to the people around you. If you have specific needs or wants, you have to express them clearly to a receptive audience.
Brush up on your communication skills. Contemplate how to say things that need to be said and practice, practice, practice. Communication is a skill that needs to be honed with practice over time.
3. You’re not hearing what others are trying to say.
The other half of communication is listening and actually hearing what other people have to say. This is an entirely different, unique skill that needs to be developed on its own.
People will say a lot of things, but others don’t always listen with the intent to understand. Instead, they listen to what the person is saying and then impose their own thoughts, opinions, or beliefs on the other person’s words.
They may just assume that certain thoughts, feelings, or actions are backed by different motivations other than what the original speaker intended.
The ability to listen is integral for clear communication which can help both parties feel understood and more easily reach a compromise when needed.
Related article: The 8 Secrets To Effective Communication
4. You or the people around you are changing and growing.
Life happens. The years go by and people change, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse.
Friends and family members are not always a consistent presence in your life. As time passes and people change, they will eventually need to travel down their own roads.
They may go off to college, get married, or move off to a new location in search of their own peace of mind and happiness.
Change is going to come whether we want it or not. We have no choice in the matter. What we can choose to do is embrace that change and move with it, allow ourselves to grow and evolve with life instead of fighting against it.
The good news is that there are a lot of people out there in the world who will bring a lot to your life, as you will to theirs. You just have to keep moving toward them.
5. You or the people around you are stuck and stagnating.
The frustration of feeling stuck or stagnating can contribute to feelings of isolation and loneliness. That could be anything from a passionless relationship to a job that just doesn’t offer any degree of fulfillment.
Furthermore, if you are the kind of person who is interested in adventure or excitement, feeling bogged down or not stimulated is going to feel more isolating.
Sometimes, you just have to break out of that rut and mix things up a bit! Maybe it’s time for a career change, to pick up a new hobby, take a road trip, or even travel abroad – anything to break up the monotony a bit and get a breath of fresh air.
6. You may have mental health concerns that need addressing.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that nearly 1 in 4 adults is living with a diagnosable mental illness.
There are certain mental illnesses that can contribute to feeling like you’re isolated or alone. Social anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses can make a person feel misunderstood and as though they are standing completely alone in a world full of people.
The good news is that many mental health issues can be confronted and overcome! A person may find therapy helpful, can learn ways to manage and reduce those negative feelings, or may need something more.
If your feelings of isolation are persistent or intense, it’s a good idea to talk to a counselor about them. They will likely be able to help you identify the source of those feelings and find a way to improve on them.
7. You may be living in an area that is a bad culture fit.
You know what? Some people just feel like they don’t belong in certain areas. This delves into a delicate area where emotions can run high and different people interpret the world in different ways.
Open-minded people may not do well in a predominantly closed-minded population. Perhaps you look, dress, or act in a drastically different way than the people in your community, thus not fitting in well socially.
A change of location and environment to one more in tune with who you are as a person may be in order! There’s no real reason to spend one’s life miserable and unhappy, living in a place where they may feel ostracized or unwelcome.
It’s okay to be who you are and to feel how you feel, but of course, everyone else in the world may not agree. Moving to a location with more agreeable people may be a better option.
8. You may not be receptive enough to the opportunities around you.
Far too many people think that friends and opportunities are going to come batter down their door.
This isn’t going to happen.
You must be willing to put yourself out there if you want to accomplish anything, whether that is making new friends, finding acceptance, learning something new, or developing a career.
Furthermore, people have a bad habit of overlooking opportunities that might be right in front of them. Perhaps those people who are different than you are trying to welcome you as best as they can.
Not everyone is going to understand you or the way you want to live your life; and you may not understand theirs. Making an effort to bridge the gap in a way that does not compromise the most important parts of you is a good way to find connections with other people.
You can have a good time with just about anyone if you are open and receptive to them.
Smiles and laughter transcend so many social barriers.
Not sure what to do about the nagging feeling that you don’t belong? Speak to a counselor today who can walk you through the process. Simply click here to connect with one.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What does it feel like to belong?
When you experience true belongingness, it feels like a warm, welcoming acceptance of you as a person. You feel appreciated for what you bring to the group or community you are a part of. But you are also valued as an individual, aside from what you can contribute.
You feel connected to people. Indeed, you build deep bonds with other members of the group and feel comfortable in their presence. Belonging feels like you have found your place in this world.
What does it feel like to not belong?
When you feel you don’t belong anywhere, it can feel like a complete rejection of who you are because if nobody likes you for who you are or ‘gets’ you, it’s hard not to take it personally.
It can be isolating to have no strong social bonds, as though you are being excluded from the communities you see around you. You feel unappreciated, unvalued, and completely disconnected from the society you are a part of.
Do humans need a sense of belonging?
Most people place a great deal of importance on experiencing belongingness. Humans are social creatures who evolved in groups of individuals who worked together to survive and thrive. That hasn’t changed in the modern world.
Yes, there are some people who seem able to happily exist away from the world, or at least outside of the usual social web. But these are few and far between. The vast majority of people want to feel a part of peer networks, whether as part of a family unit, at school, in the workplace, or in the wider community.
Why do I want to belong?
You want to belong because the alternative is typically problematic. To not belong means you have little in the way of a support network to lean on in times of hardship. And to have friends and other social connections contributes to your mental and emotional well-being.
Most people find great joy in shared experiences and that comes from having other people in your life with whom you share a bond and similarities. It is natural to want to belong to a group of community.
What does it mean to belong somewhere?
Belonging somewhere means to feel at home around the people you are with. It means you feel able to be yourself, to be vulnerable, and to trust that those people will accept all sides of you.
When you belong, you stop longing for something to change so that you might find a place you feel comfortable. You stop wandering and searching and hang up your boots, metaphorically speaking. It doesn’t mean stagnation by any means, but simply that you feel ‘right’ wherever you happen to be.
How do I find my sense of belonging?
The simplest way to feel like you belong is to engage with people as much as possible. Get to know the people who are already in your life far better than you do now. Don’t assume that you and they are different – look for your similarities instead. Even if you don’t agree on everything, you will surely be able to find things on which your views are in alignment.
Remember that most people are good at heart and that you don’t have to like everything about them to form strong social bonds with them. Whilst social groups may share some things in common, there will be a huge range of personalities and beliefs within them.
Be vulnerable where appropriate. People don’t so much connect on the surface level; they connect through mutual compassion and through seeing each other as human beings below whatever physical or personality traits they have. Be honest about who you are. Don’t paint yourself as the loner or misfit or people will believe that you are and treat you as such.
Be warm and welcoming to others. Accept them for who they are, flaws and all, and they will be more likely to accept you in return. If you keep everyone at arm’s length, you’ll struggle to form the close bonds through which belongingness arises. This might involve addressing your social awkwardness if you have any. This will take time and practice, but being more outgoing is something that everyone can learn.
How can I feel at home anywhere?
If you want to feel at home somewhere, you have to start with an open mind and be willing to see your connectedness to others even if you don’t feel it straight away. If you go into a situation or place expecting to feel distant from others, you will think and behave in ways that lead to that outcome. If you approach things expecting to form connections with people, you’ll be far more likely to do so.
That’s not to say that you will always be able to feel at home among people who are very different from you, but that you don’t have to place so much importance on those differences. Look for the commonalities instead and that will bring you closer to a feeling of belongingness.
What is the feeling of not belonging called?
Estrangement is the feeling of not belonging. When you feel like you are an outcast from your family, for instance, you might say that you are estranged from them.
Alienation is another word for the feeling of not belonging. When you feel alienated from others or from society, you sense the differentness between you and them. You may also feel powerless because you are not in a position to change the world around you or to exert much power over your own life.
Though not a direct replacement for the feeling of not belonging, normlessness (or anomie as it is also called) occurs when the situation in the place in which you live changes radically and rapidly meaning that social norms may no longer apply. In these situations, you may not be able to identify with these new norms because they differ so greatly from your established ways of doing things. And so you feel distant from the society in which you live.
What do you call people who don’t fit in?
There are many names for people who do not fit in: misfit, nonconformist, loner, outcast, outsider, and individualist are just a few.
In truth, these all have slightly different meanings. A nonconformist is someone who chooses not to conform to the expected standards of society, perhaps in terms of how they live their life or what they look like.
A loner is someone who spends most of their time alone, whether by choice or not. They may well have friendship groups that they belong to, but they are happiest when by themselves.
An outcast is someone who has been shunned by society because of their views or actions, perhaps because they are extreme or illegal.
The other words are all variations on the theme of not belonging.
What are the consequences of feeling like you don’t belong?
People who feel like they don’t belong are more prone to loneliness. This doesn’t have to mean they don’t have social interaction with others; it can mean that they have lost those with whom they felt the closest connections. Elderly people are prime examples of this – they may have family around them, but if they have outlived their spouse and siblings, they may feel a sense of loneliness because they don’t quite belong to the family unit in the same way that they used to.
Depression and hopelessness are also associated with a low sense of belonging (source).
Self-esteem is another factor of your mental well-being that relates directly to a sense of belonging (source). Your self-esteem will likely be higher if you feel like you belong than if you feel like you don’t belong. This makes sense because belongingness involves feeling accepted which suggests that you as a person are liked, and vice versa with regards to feeling rejected and not being liked. A person’s perception of how others like them feeds into how much they like themselves.
A person who feels like they don’t fit in may also experience shame. They may see themselves as unworthy of love or of being ‘less than’ based on the fact that they do not have strong interpersonal relationships with others.
Someone who doesn’t feel like they belong may also be more likely to lash out at those they believe are excluding them or who they feel no connection with. This follows the logic that you are more likely to show aggression toward someone with whom you don’t feel a strong bond. When a person feels alienated from others and from society, they may seek to take their negative feelings out on that society in some way.
How important is belonging?
A sense of belonging is an essential human need for almost everyone. The feeling of being a part of something larger than you provides a level of meaning to ours lives. Without it, communities would look very different and cooperation for the greater good would be far harder to achieve.
On a local and global level, belongingness drives positive behavior that shapes the world we live in and makes our lives more enjoyable.
On an individual level, feeling like you belong can improve your well-being in many ways – mentally, emotionally, and even physically. Whilst some people find it hard to come by, one should never stop seeking to make connections with others, even if those connections are brief.
The interpersonal relationships we have help to define who we see ourselves to be in a wider context than our own internal environment. They reassure us of our place in this world and commit us to each other in ways that benefit individuals, groups, and societies alike.
Do you want to talk to someone to overcome the feeling that you don’t belong? Speak to a counselor today who can walk you through the process. Simply click here to connect with one.
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